I hope this finds you healthy, safe, and sane during this challenging time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us in so many ways... already. The crisis also has a direct impact on crime rate and an expected trend in aggressive criminal investigations and prosecutions of criminal conduct.
While the rate of street crimes has has dropped during this self-isolation phase of the pandemic, there is an uptick in the prosecution of certain offenses and we can expect a surge in the crime rate following the quarantine.
The Department of Justice has been vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting alleged wrongdoing related to the crisis. In a recent memo to U.S. Attorneys, Attorney General Barr said, "The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated."
The DOJ is aggressively investigating COVID-19 related mail and wire fraud, including reports of:
Individuals and businesses selling fake “cures” for COVID-19 online
Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Websites and apps that appear to share virus-related news and information but, in fact, are merely a means to gain and lock access to devices until a “ransom” is paid
Seeking “donations” for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations
The DOJ is also investigating intentional acts to spread the virus as potential crimes under federal terrorism statutes.
On March 25, 2020, the FBI arrested a Southern Californian man on federal fraud charges for allegedly soliciting investments in a company claiming to sell pills that would prevent coronavirus infections as well as an injectable cure for those already infected. The indictment is pending in the Central District of California and the offense carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. This was the first instance of COVID-19 fraud being prosecuted in the nation, but more will come.
We can expect to see prosecutions of individuals for similar alleged fraudulent investment schemes as well as for selling bogus testing kits to diagnose infection.
If you or anyone you know has been accused of a crime related to the COVID-19 virus (corona virus), we are here to assist you.
Please stay safe and healthy.